The days of summer are filled with joy, but joy can be short-lived when something as simple as a negative word comes your way. Everything immediately changes because a bomb was dropped on your psyche. It rolls around in your mind like a cyclone destroying the positive thoughts that had once taken center stage. You replay it over and over again and it sets up a roadblock for rational thoughts. Research has shown that the words on which we focus can actually restructure our brains.
In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman write, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Newberg, a neuroscientist, and Waldman, a communications expert, share research showing we can modify brain functions by using positive language more often than negative language. These positive words can activate the motivational centers of the brain and jump start them into action. Positive words cultivate joy in the brain of the speaker and the receiver, so it creates a “win – win” situation.
As educators, our words hold a lot more power than we often think. Our words affect our students, parents, colleagues, friends, and families. The words we speak, and the ones on which we chose to focus, have a definite impact on our brains and the outcome of the day at hand. Newberg and Waldman share 12 Strategies of Compassionate Communication that can help us become more effective as communicators.
2. Stay present
3. Cultivate inner silence
4. Increase positivity
5. Reflect on your deepest values
6. Access a pleasant memory
7. Observe nonverbal cues
8. Express appreciation
9. Speak warmly
10. Speak slowly
11. Speak briefly
12. Listen deeply
It only takes one negative word to release dozens of stress-producing hormones and interrupt the function of the brain. Newberg and Waldman share that, “Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.” They also tell us that using positive words can transform our thinking – giving us a more positive view – one where we see the good in ourselves and the good in others – making us more effective communicators. Words can change our brains and our relationships.
A positive thought or word can fill you with joy, impact your brain, change your outlook, and have an affirming effect on others. Mother Teresa said, “Joy is very infectious; therefore, be always full of joy!” The joy of a positive word holds great power. Share the joy!